Written by Fabian Nicieza
Pencils by Don Cramer and J. Calafiore
With Gotham fighting for it's life, Oracle's Network of allies is forced to run around stopping crime after crime without end. Things get worse when old Batman nemesis Hugo Strange kidnaps three people, two of questionable morality and a third that is old and mentally debilitated. He seeks to challenge the new gun-toting caped crusader by promising to kill two individuals once one of them is saved. Oracle intercepts this challenge and it's up to her and the Network to ensure that all of these people make it out alive. A Battle for the Cowl tie in.
The biggest problem this issue faces is that the level of threat in the issue seems minimal. Hugo Strange is no slouch, sure, but when you pit him Huntress, Batgirl, Manhunter, Ragman, Misfit and more there begins to be a small issue. Additionally, the plan is something typical of Hugo Strange and his obsession with Batman and so when the city is falling apart around our heroes it seems inappropriate to give so much attention to a crime that, while disturbed, is small in scale compared to what else might be going on. If Gotham weren't in such a horrible position, and Strange wasn't so badly out matched, then this story might have had some solid potential, but with so much stuff going on, it makes a person wonder how many people died while the entire Network was dicking around with Strange. It's also of note that the entire plot is a less successful version of the Harvey/Rachel events in the Dark Knight.
The issue focuses on Huntress and Batgirl primarily but also makes concerns itself with a very thin plotline involving Misfit. Not being familiar with what has been going on with those characters, a great deal on the content was lost to me. Certainly I understand who they are, and how they act but I got no indication as to what had developed between them to make their current relationship what it was. This isn't to say I want a pages of exposition explaining it, but something to give me some indication would have been incredibly helpful. I didn't even get the impression that Batgirl was in the Network anymore. Regardless, it just made the issue that much more of a drag as I didn't know how to approach what I was reading.
The story is also riddled with logical plot holes-- such as Oracle revealing information to characters when she would know their response wouldn't help the situation, or how some things have come to pass if they were so easily resolved. Interesting, the two instances I've mentioned feature Barbra Gordon being incredibly dumb and impossibly smart. A passive reader might not notice these or concern themselves with them but they're certainly there. The problems that plague this issue are numerous, but not quite crippling. It's more as though this Batman comic were written by a mediocre or student writer.
RATING: 4 out of 10
Avoid it if you like, or read it if you're keen on Batman (or Hugo Strange, I suppose). It seems to be setting something rather minor for the future of the Bat-verse.